The BYU Cougars were strong members of the West Coast Conference for 12 seasons from 1999 to 2010 before turning independent in football in 2011 (and joining the West Coast Conference in all other sports). With college football realignment as crazy as ever, though, there’s no telling how long until BYU once again joins a conference. According to one former rival, that eventual landing place will be back in the MWC.
UNLV Rebels athletic director Jim Livengood told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the changing landscape of college football would push them back into a conference sooner or late due to their lack of access point as an independent not based out of South Bend into the potential playoff system. The Mountain West, by virtue of retaining the Boise State Broncos and San Diego State Aztecs, looks as strong as ever as they expand into two divisions complete with a conference championship game at season’s end.
That strength and stability, along with regional familiarity, make the MWC the ideal spot for BYU if and when they decide to return to a football conference. They would step into one of the best non-BCS conferences in the country and be at the forefront as the conference pushed to make their mark as FBS college football transitions to a playoff system.
Livengood feels that BYU will be forced to make some kind of move towards a conference affiliation and will have to do so before 2014 when the playoff format begins. He postulates that the Cougars won’t have any choice as the dominoes fall across the college football landscape.
“I think the next shoe to drop is not going to be a conference in this part of the country. But once that move is made, then I think you’re going to see other things fall into place. A couple of moves by one conference would make a lot of other things happen.”
So what will be the next shoe to drop? Will it be the Big Ten‘s announced plans of continued expansion? Will the Big East collapse and create a feeding frenzy for their remaining members? Or will the SEC begin plucking programs away from the ACC and Big 12 (again)?
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure; the college football landscape is far from settled. With imminent change on the horizon, will BYU find itself caught up in the realignment rush and land in familiar territory when it’s over?